Empathy is the mother of Innovation

Disability drives innovation. Here’s proof.
Three stories.

In 19th-century Italy, sighted Pellegrino Turri struggled to find a way to send (secret) love letters to Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, who was blind.
Braille had not yet been developed. Other blind people dictated their letters for sighted people to transcribe, but the countess could not do that.
And so they developed a revolutionary method for producing print by touch- the typewriter. No wonder, the fastest typists are touch typists (they don’t look at the keyboard)

Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, is hearing-impaired. His disability influenced his work developing the internet.
Back in the 1980s, deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals searched for a good alternative to communicating over the telephone.
Mr Cerf spearheaded the creation of the first commercial email service, allowing him to communicate with family members and colleagues without straining to hear.

Wanda Diaz Merced is a blind astronomer who developed a non-visual system for studying stellar radiation.
She used an application that converts complex data from space into sound.
The extensive data astronomers collect cannot all fit on a monitor, so they continually sought better methods for finding patterns in the data. The system Wanda developed, called sonification, helped her sighted colleagues too.

Differently lived experiences bring unique perspectives. People with disabilities are uniquely positioned to develop solutions that advance technology. To spur Innovation, we should care to listen and observe the design challenges.

Note the ability in the disability.

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